This page explains the role and requirements of the National Policy Statement for Renewable Electricity Generation and how it links to other government policies. It includes information on the recent evaluation of its effectiveness.
Link to the NPS
What the NPS is
The National Policy Statement for Renewable Electricity Generation (NPS) is guidance for local authorities on how renewable electricity generation should be dealt with in Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) planning documents. These documents include regional policy statements, regional plans and district plans.
The NPS took effect on 13 May 2011.
Why it is needed
The NPS recognises the importance of renewable energy and will help New Zealand achieve the Government’s target of 90 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2025.
The NPS promotes a more consistent approach to balancing the competing values associated with the development of New Zealand’s renewable energy resources when councils make decisions on resource consent applications. This gives greater certainty to applicants and the wider community.
What it covers
The NPS applies to renewable electricity generation activities at any scale. It covers the construction, operation and maintenance of structures associated with renewable electricity generation.
- small and community-scale renewable generation activities
- systems to convey electricity to the distribution network and/or the national grid
- electricity storage technologies associated with renewable electricity storage.
It covers all renewable electricity generation types as set out below.
It also provides for investigation activities for renewable electricity generation such as wind masts and geothermal test bores.
Requirements for councils
Application of the NPS to resource consent applications
Decision-makers on resource consent applications are required to have regard to the provisions of the NPS as a result of s 104(1)(b) of the RMA, regardless of when the application was lodged.
Consideration of requirements for designations, heritage orders and water conservation orders are similarly affected.
Amending plans to give effect to the NPS
Section 55 of the RMA requires local authorities to amend regional policy statements, proposed regional policy statements, plans, proposed plans and variations to give effect to any provision in a national policy statement that affects those documents.
The RMA requires the necessary amendments to be made as soon as practicable; or within the time specified in the national policy statement (if any); or before the occurrence of an event specified in the national policy statement (if any) (refer section 55(2D)).
The NPS requires regional councils, unless they have already provided for renewable electricity generation activities, to give effect to its provisions by notifying changes to existing or proposed regional policy statements within 24 months of the date on which it takes effect.
For regional and district plans, proposed plans or variations, local authorities are required to give effect to its provisions by notifying changes within the following timeframes:
- 24 months of the date on which this national policy statement takes effect where the regional policy statement or proposed regional policy statement already provides for the policies, or
- where a change or variation to the regional policy statement or proposed regional policy statement is required, within 12 months of the date on which the change or variation becomes operative.
For proposed plans, changes or variations notified before 13 May 2011 the NPS may help the decision-maker determine whether a proposed regional policy statement or plan will achieve the RMA’s purpose.
Implementation guidance for local authorities
The following guidance provides commentary and examples to help councils in giving effect to the NPS. It also includes guidance on the monitoring and review requirements of the NPS.
Guidance on technical terms and concepts
The following guidance produced by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority explains technical terms and concepts used in the NPS. It is directed at local government decision makers.
National Policy Statement for Renewable Electricity Generation technical guide [PDF, 3.7MB] [Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority website]
- an overview of the New Zealand electricity system and market
- an explanation of the renewable electricity target – 90 per cent by 2025
- a summary of the most common types of renewable electricity generation technologies.
The guidance should be read in conjunction with the Ministry for the Environment National Policy Statement for Renewable Energy Generation 2011: Implementation Guide.
Impacts of the NPS
Renewable generation proposals
The NPS is only one of a number of factors that a RMA decision-maker must consider when making a decision on renewable generation proposals. The NPS does not promote renewable electricity at any environmental cost.
Electricity generators will benefit from more consistent resource consent and planning decisions across different districts and regions. This may reduce costs associated with advocacy during the development of district and regional plans and resource consent applications.
Landowners and the public
The NPS will not affect landowners’ rights.
The NPS will not affect the rights of the public to participate in resource management processes. As electricity consumers, the public will benefit from barriers to the development of renewable electricity generation being addressed.
Small electricity generation projects
The NPS seeks to reduce unnecessary barriers to obtaining resource consent for the development of small and community scale renewable electricity generation projects. Local council policy statements and plans will have to provide for the development, operation, maintenance and upgrading of these projects from any renewable energy source to the extent applicable to the region or district.
How the NPS links to other government initiatives and policies
Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
The NPS promotes renewable electricity generation, which helps reduce New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions and supports the uptake of low-carbon renewable electricity generation.
New Zealand Energy Strategy, New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy and the renewable electricity target
These strategies outline the Government’s 2025 90 per cent renewable electricity target. The NPS supports this target by providing guidance for RMA planning and resource consent decision-making on the national significance and benefits of renewable electricity generation.
New Zealand Energy Strategy and the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy [Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority website]
National Policy Statement on Electricity Transmission
The National Policy Statement on Electricity Transmission facilitates the operation, maintenance, upgrading and development of the electricity transmission network. The NPS Renewable Electricity Generation and NPS Electricity Transmission are complementary. Timeframes for implementing these national policy statements were aligned to help minimise costs for councils from plan changes and for submitters to those plan changes.
New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010
The New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement recognises that the coastal environment contains renewable energy resources of significant value which can provide social, economic and cultural benefits for people and communities.
New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 [Department of Conservation website]
National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014
The NPS Renewable Electricity Generation and the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management both affect hydro-electricity generation. The former provides direction and guidance on the development, operation, maintenance and upgrading of renewable electricity generation activities and their benefits. The latter provides direction and guidance on the appropriate use and/or allocation of water resources. RMA resource consent decision-makers need to have regard to both national policy statements and RMA plans will need to give effect to both of them.
New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme
The New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS) is a way of meeting our international obligations around climate change. By putting a price on carbon, the NZ ETS makes renewable electricity more competitive than fossil-fuel generation.
The NZ ETS improves the economics for renewable electricity generation projects, while the NPS addresses the resource management issues associated with renewable electricity generation and the planning and consenting processes under the RMA.
Evaluation of the effectiveness of the NPS
Assessing the performance of our resource management planning for renewable electricity generation is particularly important given New Zealand’s commitment to meeting its 90 per cent renewable electricity generation target by 2025.
The Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have jointly undertaken an evaluation of the effectiveness of the NPS by looking at how councils across the country have given effect to the NPS.
A range of plans and resource consents were analysed as well as views from stakeholders such as the electricity sector, local government, professional bodies, and consumer, business and environmental groups via a survey and interviews. The evaluation found that there are no technical problems with the NPS and no issues that require urgent attention.
The report identifies areas that stakeholders think could be improved upon so there is a more consistent approach to planning for and considering resource consents on renewable electricity generation. Several factors indicate that the full impact of the NPS on planning for and consenting on renewable electricity generation is yet to be seen.
- a lack of significant growth in electricity demand in recent years
- the considerable electricity generation capacity that has been consented but not yet built
- the fact that not all policies and plans were required to give effect to the NPS at the time of the evaluation.
The NPS will continue to be a component of the Government’s strategy for transitioning New Zealand to a low carbon economy. The main way it is doing this is by facilitating the development of renewable electricity generation projects in the regions.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment monitors and reports on the proportion of electricity generated from renewable resources.
Find out more
Minister’s media release: Priority given to renewable electricity April 2011 [Beehive website]